by Lisa Tome
Officials in Rising Sun are moving ahead with plans to crackdown on those who don't comply with town regulations.
Discussion is underway by town board members to cope with those who don't clear the walks in front of their homes during winter weather. They also want to find ways to make water and sewer customers pay bills in their entirety.
They also want absentee landlords to comply with local codes.
That was part of the discussion which occurred during the January 28 town meeting. No formal action was taken.
Commissioner Bernie Chiominto wants inspections at apartment buildings in town. "If you want to inspect apartment houses, you have to adopt a code," said town administrator and code enforcement officer Calvin Bonenberger.
About five years ago, town officials attempted to adopt "quality of life" ordinances which were met with resistance from property owners.
Bonenberger said this issue has come to the forefront following the fire on Queen Street in December when two apartments and three businesses were impacted by a fire at the pet store. Chiominto said he wants to make certain that apartment buildings have fire escapes, proper egress lighting, and smoke alarms. He said Fire Chief Matt Blakeley supports this.
"The sky’s the limit. You can have a rental inspection code," said Bonenberger, who specified that this would not be for owner/occupied properties.
Commissioner Travis Marion expanded on the discussion by stating that the town needs a property maintenance code for businesses, particularly, "dilapidated businesses" in the center of town. He suggested that the town mandate new paint and clean windows at these properties. He said that business owners have "let them fall apart and some have green mold, peeling paint, and falling off gutters."
Mayor Bob Fisher said that something needs to be done to those who don't remove snow from their sidewalks within the 24 hour "after the snow stops falling" window allowed by the town. Marion said that it is particularly important since children use the walks to get to school. "We need to get tougher on it. We don't want people falling," said Marion.
Police Chief Chip Peterson said officers can write civil citations. Commissioner George Walker said that when he was the chief, police officers would ask residents who hadn't shoveled, to do so. Board members also decided that it is pointless to take the issue to court, because the hearing could be held months after the fact. The Town currently has a policy where town crews remove snow and bill the property owner.
It was suggested that those who need community service hours, volunteer to help those who can't shovel.
Bonenberger also announced that 14 town properties, 13 of which are vacant, will be turned over for tax sale. The utility bills on these properties are seven months to 24 months overdue to the town of $13,888. After the board decided these will go to tax sale, Marion said he also wants to crackdown on those who don't pay water and sewer bills in their entirety each billing cycle. Marion said that people "ride" the system and should pay their balance using credit cards now that the town accepts card payments.
"In today's economy, our water bills have increased substantially. We need to work with the residents," said Commissioner Lyn Dugger.